Sunday, March 13, 2011

We fast during Lent because we have sinned, Sermon of March 13th

1st Sunday of Lent, Year A.
March 13, 2011
Romans 5:12-19

For if, by the transgression of the one [i.e. Adam], death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.

It is both with a certain anticipation and joy as well as with something of a nervous apprehension that we enter into the Season of Lent. We have joy and even excitement because we know that the Good Lord always has so many blessings in store for us during this holy Season. Moreover, even now, we begin to look ahead the full six weeks, preparing ourselves for the great feast of Easter.
Yet, if we are honest, there is probably also some struggle as we begin Lent. Perhaps already, just five days into the Season of Penance, we have begun to wiggle a little bit on our Lenten fast. Indeed, we may have even considered that very difficult and intricate question: What exactly constitutes candy? J

Certainly, there is something in the spirit of the modern world and even of the modern Catholic world, that makes it difficult for us to enter into Lent. And what might that be? What is it about Lent that is so hard for the modern man?
I suppose that many would reply that it is fasting which is most difficult. However, I would offer that the modern secular world has a great respect, and perhaps even a reverence for a certain sort of fasting. Consider the diet craze – the way that so many celebrities and even common folk, discipline their bodies and undergo intense mortifications in order to look fashionable. Yes, there is, in fact, a great deal of self-denial in the modern world, but it is lacks the Christian character that is required for the Lenten Fast.
Speaking with the children at our Catholic grade school, I made this little comparison in the form of a question. I asked the children whether they thought that this would be a true fast: To give up dinner, to fast from the evening meal (something that requires a good bit of self-denial); but to do so only in order to eat an exceptionally large dessert. The children all quite emphatically told me that this wouldn’t be much of a fast at all! And, of course, they were right.
More than mere self-denial is required in order to have a Christian fast – there also has to be the proper interior disposition. This, I think, is what the world has such a hard time with: The reason behind Christian fasting.

And why do Christians fast? Why do we fast during Lent? We fast because we are sinners. We take up our Lenten discipline, because we have sinned and have rejected the God who is Love.
For the Christian, the Lenten Fast is a recognition of the reality of sin – both sin in itself, and also our cooperation in sin. If we do not understand the reality of sin, we will never understand the mystery of Lent. But if we lose Lent, we will also lose Easter. Without sin there is no redeemer, and without Lent there is no Easter.
This is why, in the first two readings of today’s Mass, the Church gives us to meditate upon the Fall of Adam. We begin Lent by considering the first sin – and also the original sin which we all inherit through our fallen nature.
But, of course, there is more than just that one sin of Adam; for, as St. Paul reminds us, the one transgression led to many other sins – and we have all participated actively in the reign of sin. If we are at all honest with ourselves, we know that we have sinned.

But we Christians don’t stop here. No, having admitted our sins, we confess also that Christ has come as our Redeemer. This is what proves the Love of God: That while we were yet in sin, Christ loved us and gave himself for us. Though we continue to struggle with sin and temptation, Christ does not abandon us.
But if we deny sin, we will end up denying the greatness of God’s Love. If we forget about sin, we also forget about redemption – and we lose sight of our Redeemer.

I often hear people say something like this, “Oh father, I am basically a good person.” Or, “I don’t really commit any sins. I really don’t have anything to take to confession.”
Far too often we pretend that we are sinless, or at least that we are not that bad. But I say, Look to the Crucifix! Look upon Christ, hanging dead on the Cross! That is what it took to save you and me! You and I are so wretched, so steeped in sin, that God himself had to become man and die in order to save us! If we are all so holy, so perfect through our own works; how is it that Jesus Christ, who is all good and all holy, how is it that he was offered up to a horrendous death in order that we might not suffer eternal death?
No, my brothers and sisters, this will not due. We must admit our sinfulness, we must confess our need for Christ’s redemption. This admission of sin does not leave us in despair or gloom; rather, we are then able to affirm the infinite Love and Mercy of God!

This is what Lent is really all about – It is a time of repentance. A time to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. We take up our fast as an acknowledgement of our sins; but as we feel the physical hunger brought on by our Lenten discipline, we recall that our deepest hunger is only satisfied in the Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ.